When he was putting together his initial football staff at North Medford High, Mike Mitchell put a particularly different spin on his...
When Maryssa Becker wrapped up her 2012 softball season at North Medford High, there seemed no way she could top that experience.
Then she went and did it all again this past spring.
From a second straight Class 6A state championship to repeating as Gatorade's Oregon softball player of the year and as the state's pitcher of the year in voting by the 6A coaches released Saturday, Becker said she definitely felt blessed with how her prep career came to a close in 2013.
"This year's been really incredible," she said prior to her graduation festivities Saturday. "After last year we as a team thought, 'Wow it can't get any better than this.' But coming back this year and winning state again and having Gatorade choose me again and being able to share all these experiences with the new members of the team this year has been really cool."
"It's been a great time and there's been a whole set of new memories," added Becker. "I don't think any of us will ever forget this year."
The numbers certainly speak to why Becker was a fitting selection for either of her recent honors. This past season, she went 19-1 inside the circle with one save and a 0.47 ERA. In 1322/3 innings, she struck out 232, walked only 22 and allowed only nine earned runs.
After four straight postseason shutouts, Becker likely saved her best for last by pitching a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a 2-1, eight-inning victory over Glencoe in last Saturday's 6A state final. The championship game no-hitter was her fifth of the season.
The Louisville-bound Becker also led her team with a .545 batting average, nine doubles, eight home runs, 48 RBIs and a .939 slugging percentage this past season.
Also helping her repeat her Gatorade honor was her 3.93 grade-point average and history as a volunteer in the community as an elementary school mentor, youth softball instructor and Torch Honor Society member at North Medford.
"Maryssa is the consummate team player," said North Medford head coach Mike Mayben, who was named 6A softball coach of the year for the third time in eight seasons. "She makes the players around her better through her leadership and work ethic. She is a special talent on the field."
Joining Becker on the 6A all-state softball first team were teammates Katie Williamson (senior catcher) and Joci Ellis (junior shortstop), while North Medford's Michelle Draper (senior left fielder) and Grace Jovanovic (sophomore right fielder) were second-team picks and Crater's Malorie Mitchell (senior shortstop) was an honorable mention selection.
Glencoe's Courtney Clayton was named 6A softball player of the year.
Williamson batted .358 with 31 RBIs and 14 runs scored and called the pitches for Becker, while Ellis repeated her first-team honor by hitting .438 with 24 RBIs and a team-best 43 runs scored and 28 stolen bases. Draper batted .274 with 19 runs, nine RBIs and Jovanovic hit .365 with 25 runs and 17 RBIs.
Mitchell, a four-year starter for the Comets, batted .394 with 14 runs and 10 RBIs and helped anchor Crater's defense.
"She did a great job of getting on base for us and creating offense," said Crater head coach Chris Arnold. "It was a tough year for anyone to put up numbers with the strong pitching in our conference when you're talking about Becker and (Roseburg's Makinna) Akers and (Grants Pass' Amy) Robinson."
Repeating as state champions is never an easy proposition, and Becker said the team adopted a slow and steady approach to their ultimate goal.
"We just said at the beginning of this year we wanted to be better at the end of the season than we were in the beginning," said the 6-foot tall right-hander. "We took that motto and just tried to work on the little things. It was only pieces at a time but by the end of the year, they all started to be put together and all the extra time we put in really helped us and made us what we were."
As for Becker, she wrapped up her run as one of the most prolific players to don a Black Tornado uniform. She was the winning pitcher for two of the program's seven state titles and finished 60-5 with one save and a 0.64 ERA in 4282/3 innings. Becker posted a whopping 685 strikeouts against 84 walks inside the circle, and wound up hitting .498 for her career with 119 RBIs, 31 doubles, 17 home runs, 63 runs scored and an .830 slugging percentage.
Becker holds the Black Tornado's single-season pitching records for wins (26), win-loss percentage (1.000, 26-0 in 2012) and most strikeouts (12.24 per game). She's also the career record-holder for pitching in win-loss percentage (.923, 60-5), least runs (0.87 per game), least hits (2.80 per game) and most strikeouts (11.2 per game).
As a hitter, Becker also is the program's career leader in batting average (.498) and home runs (17), and the single-season leader in hits (54, tied with Steph Adams), doubles (15 in 2012), homers (8 in 2013, tied with Taylor Schmidt) and RBIs (48 in 2013, tied with Steph Coe).
"It was the most amazing four years anyone could ask for," said Becker. "It's still kinda sad knowing I'll never play with these girls and this coaching staff again. I've had such a blast and everybody has been so amazing to me just to make sure my experience was really great. I think that's one of the reasons why we're such a good team because everyone's goal is to make the person next to you better and help them have a positive experience."
"Next year will be so much fun at Louisville and the girls will be great," she added, "but I'll never forget the experience I've had these four years at North Medford."
In other all-state selections released Saturday, Eagle Point sophomore Neeshaa Garcia-Patterson led the charge for Class 5A softball with her second-team selection as a designated player. Third-team recognition went to Eagle Point senior McKinzee Merrill (pitcher) and junior Emily Jeffries (outfielder) and Ashland sophomore Christina Kuykendall (infielder).
Honorable mention distinction was given to Eagle Point's Teanna Gonzalves (freshman pitcher), Paige Leeper (freshman infielder) and Karly Tolen (junior infielder) and Ashland's Teresa Lehman (sophomore catcher) and McKenna Read (sophomore outfielder).
At the Class 4A level in softball, North Valley senior Kenzie Schmoll was a second-team pick as an infielder, while Phoenix senior pitcher Meranda Zanni was named to the third team and junior infielder Amanda Skaff received honorable mention acclaim.
In 4A baseball, Hidden Valley senior pitcher Tyler Gulbransen and North Valley senior outfielder Josh Cowell were first-team all-state selections. Earning second-team honors were North Valley senior infielder Marco Garmendia and Hidden Valley senior outfielder Jamie Schmidt, while honorable mention went to Hidden Valley senior catcher Kody Garrison and North Valley senior utility player Stephen Parker.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry